How to reduce inflammation with The Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean Diet

Photo by Image Source/DigitalVision / Getty Images
Photo by Image Source/DigitalVision / Getty Images

Spain, Italy, France, Portugal, Greece and some countries of North Africa are part of the Mediterranean Region, a geographical reference to countries that border the Mediterranean Sea. It is these countries that are the primary producers of olives and olive oil, and the people of these countries that follow a pattern of eating referred to as the Mediterranean diet (MD).

The MD is one of the few patterns of eating that has been clinically proven to lower the risk of cancer; heart attack and stroke; reduce inflammation associated with osteoarthritis, arthritis, and auto immune disease; and increase quality of life and longevity (Urpi-Sarda et al. 2012).

Whilst research has shown that good health is related to lifestyle just as much as diet (people of the Mediterranean Region are socially well connected to family and friend, and lead a slower pace of life than their western counterparts), the high use of olive oil in the MD is one of the primary reasons that this pattern of eating works so well. Olives are a rich source of mono-unsaturated fatty acids and polyphenols, a compound that has strong anti- inflammatory properties. So much so that recent research is looking to isolate specific polyphenols from the olive fruit to patent as over the counter anti-inflammatory medication, without the side effects of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (Bitler et al. 2007).

You can get the anti-inflammatory and cardio-protective actions of the MD by eating:

  • Bountiful amounts of fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds

  • Olives and olive oil as the primary source of fat

  • Small amounts of red meat (traditionally once a week – replace with fish and

    poultry)

  • Moderate amounts of fish and poultry

  • Fewer dairy products (Choose full fat natural yoghurt, cheese, and milk sourced from

    cow, sheep or goat)

  • 0-4 eggs per week

  • Low to moderate amounts of red wine

    Simple ways to make your dietary choices more Mediterranean:

  • Use extra virgin olive oil as your primary fat source for cooking, baking, and for salad dressing

  • Eliminate refined carbohydrates from your diet, including refined sugar

  • Include organic tinned beans in your cooking and salads

  • Use crushed garlic and fresh herbs to season your cooking

  • Enjoy fresh fruit and a small amount of quality cheese after a main meal, rather than sweets or chocolate

Urpi-Sarda. M., Casas. R., Chiva-Blanch. G., Romero-Mamani. E. S., Valderas-Martinez. P., Arranz. S., Andres-Lacuevea. C., Llorach. R., Medina-Remon. A., Lamuela- Raventos. R. M., & Estruch. R. (2012). Virgin olive oil and nuts as key foods of the Mediterranean diet effects on inflammatory biomarkers related to atherosclerosis. Pharmacological Research, (65:6), 577-583. doi: 10.1016/j.phrs.2012.03.006

Bitler, C., Matt, K., Irving, M., Hook, G., Yusen, J., Eager, F., Kirschner, K., Walker, B. & Crea, R. (2007). Olive extract supplement decreases pain and improves daily activities in adults with osteoarthritis and decreases plasma homecystine in those with rheumatoid arthritis. Nutrition Research, 27(8), 470-477. doi: 10.1016/j.nutres.2007.06.00